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The Southern Decadence parade in 2014.

There are a few select things that can convince Houston gays to leave town: volleyball tournaments, cross-country trips to meet your soulmate on Scruff and circuit parties. Of the latter, one of the biggest is Southern Decadence, which takes place in New Orleans over Labor Day weekend. A few short hours away by car or a quick puddle jump in a plane and you can be celebrating with thousands of your nearest and dearest soon-to-be friends.

While not as decadent as years past, it’s still a great time to enjoy all of the fun the Big Easy has to offer. Like most large-scale gay events, Southern Decadence benefits several local charities—including the LGBT+ Archives of Louisiana. Leave it to Southern gays to be as altruistic as they are debauched. While you may not need a lot of clothes—this being a swamp in the summer—you will need a few specific items in your suitcase. Call it a Southern Decadence Survival Kit.

1. Closed-Toe Shoes

You might be tempted to wear sandals because of the weather. Do not do this. Bourbon Street is rife with substances you don't want touching your feet: other people's shoes, bodily fluids, spilled drinks, drainage, etc. Better options include leather boots to match your harness/denim ensemble, or for the practical, try shoes like Sperry’s that you can wash or cheap ones from H&M that you can toss out if/when they get too gross.

2. Mio Energy Drinks

Normally three days in New Orleans is a marathon, not a sprint. The vibe is amped up a few notches during Decadence, though, and you’re going to need all the energy boosters you can get. The parties are all hours, and most of the good events don’t even start 'til past midnight. Plus all that barhopping among Oz, the Bourbon Pub, Goodfriends, and Rawhide takes a lot of energy. If you, like most quality humans, have a taste aversion to Vodka Sugar Free Redbulls, try the various Mio flavors available at any convenience store.

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3. Parade Wear

This year's official colors sound like Pokémon editions: Ruby Red, Pearl White, Blue Sapphire and Amethyst Purple. Make sure you’re ready for the parade by donning some duds that embody the colors and spirit of Decadence. I wouldn't put too much effort into this because you are guaranteed to be upstaged by the parade participants. But you can show your support with a matching shirt, or umbrella, or colored ribbons hanging off your kilt.

4. Spare Charger

Depending on where you're staying in New Orleans, it may be hard to find ample time to charge your phone. There are not a lot of outlets available in the bars, and you’re going to need a way to drop a pin to let your friends know where you are, take some Snaps and catch some Pokémon. Pro tip: Friend-locating apps tend to really drain your battery because of the GPS. So keep this mind if you're single or trying to thrupple up.  

5. Rain Poncho

The weather in NOLA is comparable to that of Houston; i.e., the weather can change at the drop of a hat. And since you should already be heading to Decadence with protection, why not bring some more in case the weather takes a turn? Instead of a bulky umbrella that will make all the bears think you're really happy to see them, go for a poncho. You can probably find a cheap, disposable one at any sporting goods store. If the weather stays clear, wear a clear one with some cute underwear and try to convince people you’re really into plastics.

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